Monthly Archives: May 2014

Doing words for May

  • Admiring:- anyone who runs a sub-100 half
  • Bookmarking- 
cake websites. 2 June birthdays… although one is my own so the pressure’s off
  • Buying:- as little as possible given that we’re moving in 4 weeks!
  • Cooking- an awesome new slow-cooker chicken curry recipe
  • Deciding- what food we should have at our farewell BBQ
  • Drinking- something new: Bascand Estate 2012 Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough NZ)
  • Enjoying- 
the weather- it’s beautiful- mid twenties, dry, sunny- lovely!
  • Feeling- 
a bit on the chubby side- feels like I’ve been eating cake since Mother’s Day!
  • Getting- 
ready for my last week of work
  • Googling- 
strawberry allergy- I think Master L has one
  • Hoping- we find a great Nanny in Auckland
  • Knowing- 
I only have two more evening shifts….
  • Liking- tonight’s newest find- “Chocolate Mug Cake”– if the mother of invention is necessity, the savior of desperation is Google. (I left out the coffee- it wasn’t bad)
  • Looking:- forward to seeing Chinese Puzzle– the third in the Spanish Apartment Trilogy. I loved the first two, hope the third dosen’t disappoint.
  • Loving- 
the Maya Fiennes- Yoga for Real Life, which I borrowed from the library, just wish I had made time to do some!
  • Making- lists galore!
  • Marvelling- 
at how many Gumtree enquiries never amount to anything- are these people just trying to find something to do?
  • Playing- trains, most days
  • Pondering- where to go for my birthday/farewell Sydney dinner
  • Needing- more sleep- is this the same as April?!
  • Noticing- that Adam Sandler plays essentially the same character in every movie (but I still find myself reluctantly laughing)
  • Reading- something on my ereader…. I forget what, it’s so long since I picked it up
  • Smelling- 
less than perfect thanks to Miss Ls upset tummy
  • Thinking- how crafty all these cleaning businesses are who keep sending us junk mail, having seen our “For Lease” ad on the internet
  • Waiting- for my new roster
  • Wanting- my friend to get through her leukaemia treatment in one piece
  • Watching- Offspring Season 4, which just started
  • Wearing- t-shirts still, it’s unseasonably warm for May!
  • Wishing- 
to one day run a sub-100 half!
  • Wondering- 
how long my 95 year old Grandma’s got left..


Group mentality

I went out for dinner with my Mother’s* group last night. We have known each other for as long as Master L is old, ie just over two and a half years. It was part farewell (to me) dinner, part baby shower for the last of the 5 remaining members to have baby number two (due exactly one year after Miss L was due; so we’ve all managed round two within 12 months of each other).

I had such a lovely evening and it obviously lent itself to reflecting on “Mother’s group” as a concept and, in fact, groups in general as a concept. Of course, being a farewell dinner, there was an air of sentiment, which motivated a blog post, but hopefully not too much of a rose-tinted one.

I approached Mother’s group two plus years ago with an open mind. Most of my friends seemed to enjoy the companionship it brought, for some it was a temporary convenience which dissolved when real life kicked back in, a few didn’t bother with one at all, and of course all of my child-free friends rolled their eyes and snickered “Mother’s group… you aren’t are you??”

My friends with children mostly live a fair distance away (although, to them, it’s me who lives a “long way away”, they each live in the centre of their own individual universe and seem to have trouble comprehending  how anyone who lives north of the bridge manages to make the “huge” trip any time they want to go anywhere… completely oblivious to the fact that we have all the same things [and more in many ways] north of the bridge that they have south). Anyway, the benefits of having a group of mums locally who I could meet for coffee, playdates and whatever other mysterious activities having children seemed to foster, required no further consideration.

Also, the next closest-in-age first-born among my friends is 11 months older than Master L. That is practically grown-up to someone who has a new baby. The changes that occur (to Mum and baby) in the first 11 months are so massive that having someone with an 11 month old child give you advice is almost as useless as having your mother give you advice. Correction, having my mother give you advice.

And besides, what did I have to lose?

In the first session the (very normal-looking, late 40s) child health nurse told us how she hoped our Mother’s group would be a valuable experience and how she had just been on a weekend away with her Mother’s group- and their babies were now 27 years old… Hmmm, I thought, sorry but I just don’t see that happening.

After 4 facilitated sessions it was time to strike out on our own. The same child health nurse recommended we meet at a local hotel, “great” for Mother’s groups by virtue of its soulless cafeteria-style bistro, “play area” for the hoards of screaming toddlers and preschoolers who get dragged there (completely useless to us with newborns), easy pram access and bad but cheap (well, voluminous anyway) coffee. Shudder…. There was no way I wanted to meet there. We trialled a series of meetings which went from the sublime (Bather’s Pavillion in Balmoral- unsurprisingly, NOT a great Mother’s group hang-out) to Gloria Jeans (speaking of bad coffee) and after a couple of weeks I was a bit jack of the whole thing… I resolved to go if I had nothing else on but not to specifically keep my Thursday mornings free just for Mother’s group.

The whole thing just seemed so contrived, I remember thinking, I mean what did I have in common with these women apart from geographical location and the experience of being first-time mothers? They were all (well mostly) very nice people but not people I thought I’d ever call friends.

But now that I think about it, what have I had in common with any of the “groups” I’ve been part of… I think my school group (both year group and group of friends) was probably the most contrived group I’ve ever been part of, but then I suppose that’s the nature of school friendships, you make them at an age when you don’t even know what to base them on). At uni I felt I’d found my niche and formed close friendships with people I perhaps had more in common with than I’d had at school (ex high-school geeks now trying to get a life and conveniently finding themselves at the cooler end of the geek spectrum at uni). But really, that was also pretty arbitrary. And since then, one of the things that has struck me about the friendships I’ve maintained is that none of my friends are really friends with each other, there is no “group”, my friends are disparate and have little in common. Not terribly conducive to organising “group” functions, including birthdays, weddings and baby showers, but in a way quite handy for me, who is definitely more of a one-on-one than a group socialiser. Still, I’ve often wondered if I’m missing out on something by not being part of a group. Mr L’s friends fall into several groups- there are the ex-housemate boys, the rugby boys and several other groups and they seem very strongly bonded to each other… but mine are really just a series of individuals.

But back to Mother’s group. Just when I’d decided I was jack of this, we (thank god) broke free from Gloria Jeans and started meeting at various parks around the place. We also started “hosting” and taking turns to have our get-togethers at each other’s houses. We abandoned the (ridiculous) suggestion by one Mum that we bring songs and books and things to “do” with our babies each week…. I mean seriously, was I the only one who just wanted a coffee and a chat?? Fortunately, apparently not. And so slowly, week-by-week, I got to know the other girls in the group. It was nice to have “mummy friends” now that motherhood was a big new part of my life and we’d moved even deeper into the green leafy depths of suburbia. It was even nicer once I went back to work and (happy though I was to see my work-mates again) found myself among a group of largely childless professionals. The girls I warmed to the least dropped off and there remained a core group of five mums with varying ages & backgrounds and very different personalities, but all really very supportive of each other whilst maintaining their own lives and identities.

I’m going to miss them when we move. My reflections on this whole “group” process (and, therefore, much of the “friendship” process) have surmised that groups are generally gatherings of people with an arbitrary link to each other. At times, if you’re lucky, friendships arise from those groups. But if nothing else, they provide some kind of structure and support network at uncertain times in your life. Which makes me wonder what my next “group” experience will turn out to be…

Can I see us going away for the weekend in 25 years time? Well no, but there’s not much I can imagine about what might take place in 2039. Would I be happy to go away for the weekend with them now in 2014? Yes, I most definitely would.

*I pondered moderately intensely the apostrophe placement for this blog post. You could make an argument for Mothers’ group rather than Mother’s group, but I went with the same logic that spells Mother’s Day like so- the day exists for each individual mother… except that I suppose a Mother’s group doesn’t so much…. anyway. There was no rationale or logic behind the use of a capital letter, but it’s late and I can’t be bothered to go back and change it.

Why I Run

This morning I ran the SMH Half Marathon and so it seemed appropriate to put this post (which has been writing itself in my head for a while now) into black and white.

There are a million good things about running, and very few bad, particularly when you’re a fairly lazy runner like me, who, despite the fact that I’m about to list the benefits of running I can think of, still manages to come up with excuses NOT to run on a frequent basis.

  • Head space– “I lose my breath, I find my answers”. So said a Nike ad I tore out of a magazine and stuck above my desk with Blu-tac to motivate me (to do what, I’m not sure- look like the stick thin girl running across the page, perhaps). It’s totally corny, but kind of true… running is a great opportunity to think. I don’t necessarily think about anything particularly profound. My thoughts range in depth from somewhere between “What will we have for dinner tonight?” and “What am I doing with my life?” Usually I ponder plans for the kids (existing and future), work, random moves to NZ etc. Sometimes I indulge in idle fantasies about achieving super-amazing things (winning awards, setting records, whatever, usually completely unrealistic).
  • Doggy exercise– I generally try and take the dog so I feel extra virtuous (plus she gives me an excuse to stop for breath when she needs to sniff around).
  • Fresh air– Another cliché but there is something very therapeutic about being outside, blowing away the cobwebs, getting some fresh air and all the other catchphrases your Mum used to come up with. I love being out the most when it’s early in the morning and the air is cool, preferably somewhere vaguely bushy where I can smell the gum trees and hear the whipbirds.
  • Not eating– since doing my calorie-counting diet last year, I realized that (although better than many other forms of exercise) an hour’s run does not actually burn a lot of calories compared to your average daily food intake. Exercise physiology aside, however, I think the health & weight-loss benefits are about so much more than burning calories. Firstly, the time you’re out running is time when you physically cannot be eating (unless you’re really sad and desperate) and for me, I also need to not eat for 2 hours before a run or I get a terrible stitch. But really, it’s the exercise psychology that’s most powerful. Running puts you in a better frame of mind and creates a sense of vitality and healthiness that motivates you to watch what you eat a bit more. You start to feel like that girl in the Nike ad and you can bet that she doesn’t go home and eat a piece of cake: she eats an apple.  And even if you don’t feel that much like the Nike girl, you start to think that one day in the not-too distant future, you might. If you don’t go home and eat that cake, that is!
  • Exercise– despite not burning a huge proportion of your daily caloric intake, compared to a lot of other exercise, running is still a fairly good way to burn some calories. That’s all I’ll say about that, because burning calories is really NOTHING to do with why I run.
  • Portable– you can do it anywhere (as long as it’s safe) and so it’s not a bad way to see new places.
  • Easy– well it is for me, I know there are people who say they “can’t” run. I’m not sure I believe them. Really, you need very little in the way of “proper” technique (just look at the multitude of odd running styles at any running event), skill, knowledge or expertise. You don’t need equipment, rules, uniforms or team-mates. Just a bit of effort to put on your shoes and step outside (seriously, this is the hardest part, the rest is easy).
  • Achievement– I remember running my first 10km fun run in 1998. It felt awesome. That year I did the City To Surf for the first time- 14 km felt like forever and I remember being so stiff by the time I got home I could hardly get out of the car. I said at the time I couldn’t imagine ever running further than 14km, that was my limit. The year I turned 29, I decided to do my first half marathon. That really seemed MASSIVE, like something only really hard-core people did, which made me feel partly hard-core and partly like a try-hard. I felt amazing crossing the finish line, actually quite emotional. I knew then that while I didn’t exactly feel like doing a marathon then and there, that I’d never rule it out as a possibility. And in 2009, at the age of 33, it became a possibility. I did the Gold Coast Marathon in 3 hours 57 mins and then 18 months later, the Auckland marathon. On a smaller scale, too, such as starting to run again after a long break (like having a baby), it’s amazing how you progress. One day you can’t run up that really steep hill, a couple of weeks and a few runs later, you suddenly realise you can. It’s really a great sense of achievement on a run-to-run basis, not just a race-to-race one.
  • It’s my thing– my running belongs to me. I’m not particularly interested in competing against other people (I say that, although after a race I always wish I’d gone a bit faster so I could have beaten someone I know). But on the whole, I run at my own pace. I’m not even all that into PBs and improving my times and what-not. And it’s a great leveler. You have people who you think would be pretty fit who run way slower than you and the reverse. It’s always fun to look around at the start of an event- some people look amazing- fit, lean, light- and they are terrible runners, others, a bit overweight, with funny running styles- you find yourself feeling slightly foolish for assuming you’d be faster than them because something about the way they run evidently works!
  • Virtue- at the end of the day, I feel virtuous if I run! The earlier the better- it’s out of the way, my good deed for the day- done!

And so, there are a load of reasons to run. Probably why I have never ever come back from a run thinking “I really wish I hadn’t bothered”.

Cafes of Auckland- an introduction


The Store- Britomart

In Sydney I find myself categorising most eating establishments as places I’d either go to with my children or I places wouldn’t in a million years. It’s rare that a place can be both. Auckland, it seems, is different. We stumbled across this delightful eatery tired and weary… Up since 4am, we’d survived a 3 hour flight with 2 kids in tow, all 4 of us had had minimal sleep and this was the first non-aeroplane or airport food we’d consumed all day. Seriously, almost anything would have done. But The Store was far from an “anything will do” kind of establishment. A Kiwi friend of mine had told me that NZers in general are far more tolerant than Sydney-siders of the presence of children at the kind of cool café that as an adult you’d actually want to eat at in the absence of your children and, having spent a very pleasant hour here (well, ok maybe half an hour, the kids weren’t THAT good!) I now believe it. We ate in the bistro/restaurant section (where I must confess I enviously eyed a few locals drinking white wine with their lunches but feared I’d lose all capacity to cope with the afternoon ahead if I did the same) but I asked for a delicious-looking chicken pie from their bakery section, which didn’t disappoint. Mr L had a pulled pork sandwich (yum) and we ordered ricotta hotcakes for the kids to share. (They were too tired to really eat much, but Mr L and I enjoyed their hotcakes for dessert). Even the (non-alcoholic) drinks were cool- I had a delicious apple & cinnamon tisane-type drink- it was a little on the sugary side but would have been a perfect hot-chocolate substitute and Master L sank all of Mr L’s quince & malt milkshake before he got much of a look-in. Service was friendly and helpful. I’d happily go there again- avec or sans enfants, either alone, with Mr L, a girlfriend or parents (including in-law).

Circus Circus- Mt Eden

I don’t think I would have gone into this place had Mr L not had it recommended to him, it looked a bit gimmicky. Although I have, on previous occasions, observed that the busiest-looking café is usually the best, so if I’d gone by that rule I may have ended up there after all, as everywhere else was deserted. I’ll have to withhold the superlative for the time being, but only because I have nothing nearby to compare it to: I was pleasantly surprised. Despite the gimmicky exterior, the service was incredibly helpful and friendly and the food and coffee were definitely worth going back for. Again, child-friendly without being (seeing-hearing-feeling) adult unfriendly, the menu offered a few different choices to the standard Sydney breakfast fare (which consists of bacon & egg rolls, eggs bene, bircher muesli). Mr L and I baulked at the bowls of coffee they served us (you can get cups instead if you want) but the coffee was really good and I had no trouble finishing mine. He had home-made hash-browns (I would have called them potato cakes or gallettes, as I was totally put-off by the term hash-brown) with smoked salmon & poached eggs and I had an omelette with salsa verde, which I don’t often do, as they are usually enormous and I just feel full and sick afterwards. This omelette was indeed quite large, but very nice, although to my great sorrow I set the pot of salsa aside to butter my toast and forgot to try it until I was full of omelette. I’m often wary of salsa verde, I often find it a bit too grass-like but this was more like a subtle pesto: delicious! We ordered the kids toast although Master L demanded most of Mr L’s smoked salmon, and a berry smoothie, which was perfectly yoghurty & un-sugary. I also spied the rolls and sandwiches they had on display as well as some amazing-looking desserts and thought, I’d happily eat here again… how long till lunch?

Zarbo- Newmarket

I realised as soon as I walked in that I’d actually been here before. It appealed to me this time for the same reason as last time- a big central counter with a vast array of breakfast, lunch and in-between choices that looked like they’d been cooked on-site at this café-cum-deli. Great coffee (again) and I like the touch of the mini chocolate-brownie bite that came with it. I’m a big fan of those little biscuits you sometimes get with a coffee when you’re not ordering food. When you are ordering food, I find it a little unnecessary, but I ate it nonetheless. I made a poor choice with my breakfast, however, mostly my own fault. I almost never order the muesli-yoghurt-fruit combo: I am fussy about my fruit, fussy about my yoghurt and I make muesli at home to my own individual taste and rarely find anything that measures up in my book. So the odds were against Zarbo being able to give me a dish that I’d be happy with. Indeed, I was unfortunate enough to end up with thin blobby yoghurt, toasted muesli riddled with banana chips (shudder) and a plate full of pineapple, pear and either papaya or melon, I wasn’t sure which. Given that my 3 least favourite fruits are, in fact, melon, papaya and pear, this was not an ideal breakfast. Like I said, poor choice on my part, really. Mr L had a lovely eggs benedict (with a potato cake instead of the boring old English muffin) and the poached eggs looked absolutely perfectly cooked. Master L had a boiled egg with bacon & toast soldiers, which he devoured. Service was pleasant and I’d go there again, although the menu didn’t enthrall me like The Store’s did, and the attention to detail didn’t impress me like Circus Circus had. Still, not a bad place to have up your sleeve.

Café Lava- Parnell

I chose this café on the basis that I was flying solo with two kids and there were no other customers in it to a) steer the stroller around or b) annoy. This blatantly disregards my advice re the busiest café being the best and Kiwis being tolerant of children etc but hey, I didn’t have the mental fortitude to test either theory. I walked past the first time having turned my nose up on approach, but on glancing inside it actually looked ok- funky white sofa and otherwise unremarkable décor, I thought perhaps I had judged it too harshly. So on the way back we stopped, I was desperate for a coffee and Master L was asking for a smoothie. Both of which they did quite nicely, I must say. So Café Lava served its purpose. I can’t say I’d rush back there- among the songs played (I think it was a radio station they had playing- although I’m not sure that’s much of an excuse) were You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling and John Farnham’s “Two Strong Hearts”…. Ok ok, so yes, they are both on my ipod and yes, alright, they are two of my favourite songs, but decidedly more appropriate for singing along to in the car than drinking coffee to. What I couldn’t get past, however, were the uninspiring photos of various dishes (do we really need an A4 snapshot of the eggs benedict?), laminated, blu-tacked to the wall… Thanks for your hospitality, you may see us again, but not in a hurry…

Mink- Parnell

We had hoped to check out Casetta for Saturday morning breakfast but it was closed. Instead, we chose Mink, partly because it was directly opposite and partly because we were in a bit of a hurry and it was the only café in which we could see people inside getting ready to open (just before 8am, apparently Kiwis sleep late- or perhaps they are all out early doing crazy adventure stuff and so don’t get to breakfast till a bit later).  We had a pleasant but not mind-blowing breakfast, the food was reasonably priced and nicely cooked- I went for poached eggs on toast with spinach which is a bit of a staple for me. The eggs were lovely (I always feel I’m taking a risk ordering poached eggs at a new café, but they were done perfectly) as was the spinach (not sure how they did it but it was hot and tasty, not watery and boring which happens often with cooked spinach) and even the toast (dark and grainy) was lovely. Good coffee, Mr L enjoyed his French toast and Master L wolfed down his sausage (which doesn’t mean much, he’s not terribly picky when it comes to sausages.) The service was pleasant and inoffensive, but I just felt there was something lacking… maybe it was the young waitress wearing running tights (interesting) who hovered, looking awkward, clearly looking for something to do, or perhaps it was the bad soundtrack (again!) or perhaps it was simply the fact that we were at the end of a big week and knew we had to haul two kids and a hundred bags back across the Tasman, so my breakfast mojo was lacking. I’d go back, faced with similar circumstances but next time I’m in Parnell, I’d do my best to try somewhere else first.